Changemaker Series Case Study: LifeWorks Austin

AC Cowart
AC Cowart
Jul 3, 2019 · 6 min read
Susan Johnson facilitates the 2019 Weekend Workshop. Photo credit: Tatiana Dolphine @tatianadolfine

On June 8th, the second annual AIGA Atx Changemaker Series kicked off with our Weekend Workshop, an inspiring two-day crash course in design thinking for our project teams lead by the incredible Susan Johnson.

Thanks to more resources, a bigger support network, Susan’s invaluable help planning the workshop, and a larger organizing team made up of mostly last year’s alum we were able to make some big change both to the workshop and the entire program this year that will hopefully result in even better project outcomes.

Four of those alums, now organizers, served on the LifeWorks Austin team in 2018. Almost a year later, LifeWorks is seeing positive outcomes as a result of their work. So as this year’s project teams Black Mamas Community Collective, Giving Austin Labor Support, and Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance start their summer-long journeys tackling the issues of maternal health, we can’t help but reflect on our first year, how far we’ve come since, and the successes of that particular project.

Case Study

How might we increase philanthropic efforts around ending youth homelessness using effective communication tools to engage our audience?

That was the challenge given to the project team by their change organization partner LifeWorks Austin at the start of the 2018 Changemaker Series. (You can read about LifeWorks Austin’s challenges before going into the Series here.)

The Weekend Workshop started off with some much needed eye-opening. The representatives from LifeWorks Austin and Texas Appleseed brought an issue to our attention which we all were embarrassingly ignorant of: youth homelessness. In our presumed knowledge of homelessness in Austin, most of us never thought about the children and young adults experiencing those circumstances.

“I certainly didn’t know it was an issue, and I’ve lived here for nearly 20 years.”

Photo credit: Brianna Penney

Like all teams, the creatives met for the first time at the workshop, but these guys bonded particularly quickly. Some were UX and design-thinking pros, some were newbies like LifeWorks reps Julianne and Jasmine. Project manager Abby Larson had never heard the term before applying for the Series. Over the weekend they got a crash course in the issue of youth homelessness, the work LifeWorks Austin does, and the concept of “Functional Zero,” defined as having more beds for youth experiencing homeless than the incoming need.

The team started defining their target audience with preliminary personas, identifying pain points, and brainstorming solutions around the concept of functional zero. At the end of the two days, they prototyped a couple of different solutions meant to bring awareness of the issue to the general public, like a large public sculpture of a “0” meant to spark conversation.

After the workshop, the real work began. The team had originally hypothesized that LifeWorks Austin’s ask required public support so awareness and educating the general public were linchpins of their overall strategy. But soon they realized that that was too broad and not a solution itself; they needed to get specific.

The LifeWorks Austin reps then proposed a new focus: their loyal Legacy Circle. The team began exploring ways to attract more Legacy Circle members; or for existing Legacy Circle members to donate more, in the hopes of reaching Functional Zero by 2020. To achieve this, more funds are needed to build more shelters, more homes, and support services. So the challenge evolved:

How might we increase philanthropic efforts around ending youth homelessness using effective communication tools to engage our core philanthropic donor base, the Legacy Circle.

While more focused, the challenge was still massive. How do you convince people, who are already donating thousands of dollars annually, to contribute even MORE and to leverage their own social circles to do the same?

This project team was unique in a couple of ways. First, the LifeWorks Austin reps Julianne and Jasmine participated in every single meeting and conference call, stakeholder meeting, and facilitated collaboration with the LifeWorks executives. They were extremely organized, knew their ‘ask’, were immersed in the ideation process alongside the creative team and were by far the most involved of all the change organization partners that year. Second, the team spent the most time of any team on research.

“Our project would not have been half as successful without LifeWorks Austin’s collaboration.”

To identify how to grow the Legacy Circle, the team spent two-thirds of the project phase defining the cycle of becoming a sustaining Legacy Circle member, on competitive research, interviews, surveys, and creating personas.

The team’s final deliverable: 2 proposed concepts to increase engagement from Legacy Circle members

In the end, the team developed two concepts; broken down into a series of 10 steps(logo, infographic, donor portal, etc.); to capture, serve, and assist the Legacy Circle membership for LifeWorks Austin to advance their involvement. The team even outlined what it would take to develop each solution asset for easy implementation.

The first concept was a branded awareness campaign for youth homelessness that included Legacy Circle targeted assets like a “Where the money goes” infographic to assure donors that they’re contributions are needed and are being put to good use. The second concept was a plan to improve the overall experience of the Legacy Circle within LifeWorks with better tools for donors, as well as activities and experiences that would make donors feel like they’re part of the LifeWorks community.

The organization, to say the least, was pleased with the outcomes.

“LifeWorks was so happy, they cried at the stakeholder meeting when we presented our ideas. Furthermore, they were so pleased the deliverables were realistic, and development could be carried out by LifeWorks.”

— Abby Larson, project manager

LifeWorks Austin reps Julianne and Jasmine share their project at the end-of-Series Showcase event.

That last part is key, and why we consider this project so successful. Delivering realistic projects that consider budget, time, and staff capacity of our change organization partners is an integral part of our mission because we believe that solutions that aren’t sustainable, aren’t solutions. So how have LifeWorks Austin been able to sustain the project nearly a year on and what did the team learn from the experience?

Stay tuned as we find out where those 10 solutions are now, follow up with LifeWorks Austin, representative Julianne Hanckel, and members of the creative team.

A huge shout-out to the USAA Design Studio for being amazing workshop hosts and partners in this year’s Series. As a 100% volunteer-run program, we couldn’t do anything without supporters like them!

AIGA Austin

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